Seeing your printer extrude filament but not come out of the nozzle can be a source of frustration for any 3D printing enthusiast.
This issue might happen from time to time. Fortunately, there are straightforward solutions you can use to get back to printing again.
In this post, we’ll examine 7 of the most likely causes that could cause your filament not to come out of the nozzle in detail.
At the end of the article, I’ll cover some tips to avoid and also some printer-specific scenarios.
In most cases, when the filament is not coming out from the nozzle, it is a clogged nozzle behind it. In this case, you have two options: clean or exchange. The PTFE tube is another part of your printer you should check. The extruder is the third most frequent case I have experienced, and here you have more options, depending on the circumstances.
Let’s discuss all these common cases in detail.
Common Causes of 3D Printer Not Feeding Filament
The 7 typical reasons why 3D printers don’t feed filament are presented and explained below. I’ve added some quick fixes and recommendations to help you avoid these issues in the future:
Most of us can recognize this issue very fast.
When you use your printer frequently or your nozzle is already older, this is nothing you should be worried about. Simply exchange the nozzle and the issue is solved.
If this is not the case, and the nozzle is no longer in use, then you can simply clean the nozzle with a brush, or needle or use some dedicated cleaning material.
Should this often occur, then you should probably inspect your printer, as it might signalize a calibration or setting issue in your extruder part.
As the nozzle is one of the most important parts of your extruder, you should make preventive maintenance or clean more frequent.
Maintaining the right extruder temperature is one of the most important factors in successful 3D printing.
The extruder temperature for most filaments is typically set to a range between 210 ˚C and 250 ˚C. See the image below.
Using too low a temperature can lead to poor layer bonding, poor quality prints, and even the risk of clogs in the filament nozzle.
Conversely, using too high a temperature can cause the filament to be too liquid, causing stringing or bad-quality prints. Even worse, high temperatures can damage the filament.
Thus, it’s important to remember that each type of filament requires its specific settings for optimal performance.
With this in mind, careful monitoring of extruder temperatures can help ensure excellent printing results every time.
After you check the recommended extruder temperature (producer) for the specific filament you’re using, you can try to do some temperature tests.
Slightly increasing or decreasing the temperature should help you find the right temperature for your prints.
The extrusion path is blocked
Blockages in the extruder are a common problem when dealing with 3D printing filaments.
This is generally caused by the filament hardening or clumping inside the hotend when the melted filament is not able to pass through freely.
Also, using a bad-quality filament can increase the risk of unwanted parts in the extruder.
Cleaning the nozzle was already described above, but there are other parts you should take care of (PTFE tube).
The most simple way is to use cleaning filament. This is a special filament dedicated to cleaning the whole path from where the filament enters the printer to the nozzle itself.
Taking time to regularly clean out clogged nozzles will save time and money in the long run in keeping them from interrupting your projects later down the line!
The PTFE liner is cracked
If the PTFE liner is cracked, as it wears out over time, it will not perform as intended, making filament feeding unreliable or impossible on a 3D printer.
Fortunately, cracking can easily be remedied by replacing the PTFE liner.
Regularly check your PTFE liner. Here, I would recommend you invest in a reliable high-temperature liner.
Inappropriate Idler Pressure or Spring Tension:
Common causes of 3D printers not feeding filament can include inappropriate idler pressure or spring tension.
The tension of the springs connecting a drive gear to the filament feed needs to be perfectly calibrated for the printer to consistently and evenly feed plastic filament as it builds your 3D prints.
If they’re too tight, it can cause the drive gear to slip off, resulting in instances when filament won’t feed or is being fed too quickly; similarly, if they’re too loose, plastic material can still refuse to feed.
Regular maintenance such as adding silicone grease to the springs between prints large help extend the life of your printer and reduce the likelihood of issues with idler pressure and spring tension.
Improper retraction settings
Retraction settings relate to the process by which the printer retracts a set length of plastic filament between printing moves and passes.
If there is insufficient or too much retraction, you may encounter problems such as poor print quality, clogging, filament grinding, and the printer not feeding the hot end correctly, leading to under-extrusion.
When properly tweaked, retraction settings can help achieve high-quality prints and minimal jamming issues.
Retraction settings also depend on printer and filament specifications.
The typical range for retraction length is between 2 and 7 mm, with a default of 5 mm in most slicers. The most printed speed for retraction is between 30 and 60 mm/s.
You need to test this two to find the optimal solution for your printer and filament. I would recommend using the default length (distance) of your slicer and starting with 35 mm/s and increasing the speed by 5 mm/s and comparing the results.
For testing, you can use some free “retraction test” files available.
Common causes of a cracked extruder include excessive force applied to the filament, over-tightening of the spool holder, incorrect retraction settings, or inadequate cooling.
Improperly tightened or worn spool holders are especially prone to causing inaccurate filament feed and can damage both the extrusion hot end and nozzle.
Additionally, insufficient cooling can cause the recoiled filament to solidify within the hot end due to softening and clogging into a jam.
The most immediate fix to this issue is to replace the extruder.
Look for a dual metal extruder to prevent cracking in the future.
Extruder motor issue
The extruder motor can fail occasionally and overheat; this happens when the hot plastic stays in the extruder for too long.
The main cause of this is the extruder motor’s constant operation to push the filament out without interruptions.
Checking to see if your filament is straight or twisted is a recommended practice in this case.
Make sure the cable to your extruder motor is connected correctly first. Remove the top cover of the extruder to check the extruder cable as well as the cables’ connections.
3 Tips to Avoid Future Nozzle Clogs
Nozzle clogging can be irritating for many 3D printer users, but fixing it is not a big deal. In this section, I will provide four tips to avoid future nozzle clogs.
1. Correct nozzle size
Ensuring your printer nozzle size is just right can make all the difference for successful 3D printing.
Too large and material adhesion takes a hit, too small and thermoplastic spreads over the surface, resulting in an unsuccessful print job.
Adjust according to these guidelines: keep the z coordinate lower than 1/4 of its diameter, but not higher than the nozzle’s diameter!
2. Choosing the right printer temperature
Ensuring you are using the ideal print temperature can mean all the difference between exceptional printing performance and a clogged nozzle.
Examine your 3D printer’s suggested temperatures for different materials, as well as run some tests to determine what range works best for each.
Keep in mind when switching filament types, it is essential to thoroughly remove any prior material from your hot end before adjusting temperatures – this will ensure successful prints every time.
3. Use good-quality filament
To ensure consistently successful 3D printing, it’s key to use top-notch filaments that easily melt and extrude.
Dust particles can also significantly impair their performance, making clogged nozzles highly likely. To keep your materials in optimal condition and minimize these risks, always store them away from moisture in a cool spot.
Filament Feeding Issues with Ender 3 and A net A8
If you’re using a 3D printer such as the Ender 3 or Anet A8, it’s important to take steps to prevent filament-feeding issues.
Such problems can be caused by an incorrectly set hot end; resulting in distorted plastic paths and ribbon-like curls near the extruder motor, which create tension in filaments.
Seized parts like idler arms and hobbled bolts may also interfere with PLA/ABS advancements, so make sure they stay clean.
To ensure your print job runs smoothly – keep retraction speeds & pressures low while double-checking that all settings related to your machine’s hot end are correctly adjusted.
Ender 3 printer feeding solution
Change the spring-loaded tensioner wheel and check retraction speeds and distances.
Additionally, regularly cleaning the feeder gear and smothering out filament before loading can also help avoid minor catastrophes while using the Ender 3 printer.
Or you can remove the old filament and adjust the new filament at a 45-degree angle by cutting its tip. Then gently bend it until it is straight, then feed the filament through it and test it.
Anet A8 printer feeding solution
The simplest thing to try is to flush your nozzle and extruder by removing any old filament.
However, if that doesn’t work, then you could consider adjusting the tension on the guide tube or checking that the idler screw has not been too loose.
Moreover, it’s also worth using filament of uniform diameter to maximize its compatibility with the printer feeder.
Many aspects can be involved in this kind of issue. I’ve tried to list the most common cases I and other “geeks” are facing.
To implement your ideas without any trouble and print nice and smooth objects, you should always take care of the printer. This will avoid also many other issues, not only the feeding problem.
As always, I hope this article helped to solve the challenge. Don’t forget to reach out to us in any other case, we are always happy to assist.